In just his third big league season, Wilhelmsen started last year as the team’s closer. He ended up with 24 saves, but was eventually pulled in favor of the closer-in-waiting, Danny Farquhar. That move sent Wilhelmsen to Triple-A, and now he is just trying to work his way back into a steady role with the club.
Things are only murkier in the back of the bullpen for the Mariners at the moment, as they have expressed interested in free agent Fernando Rodney to close games despite his own struggles last season. Whatever the situation, Wilhelmsen seems to have a healthy outlook on 2014 (quotes courtesy of Greg Johns at MLB.com):
“I’ve played baseball just about my whole life…You’re going to struggle. That’s just inevitable. That, you can get over. There are other things that I’ve learned from last year that I hope to handle differently.
“But you’re going to fail and you know that. It’s just part of the game. I’ve stunk many times and been really good many times. Of course you want to be perfect, but you’re just not going to be. So you work your butt off, try to stay healthy and thank the stars that you’re still here.”
Wilhelmsen still maintained good velocity on his fastball (avg. 95.9 MPH, per FanGraphs). His problems stemmed from his steep decline in strikeouts, down to a 6.86 K/9 from 9.87 K/9 in 2012, and an increase in walks up to 5.03 BB/9. Still, he might just be a tweak in his delivery away from rediscovering his command and being a steady reliever for the Mariners.
In what role is another question, but Wilhelmsen should be in the mix for Seattle in 2014.